By: Joe Messineo

Can the Mets Improve Their Defense in the Offseason?


The New York Mets were an excellent team in 2015. By making smart trade deadline moves and acquiring offensive threats to pair with their superb young pitchers, the Mets made it almost all the way to the top. They won the National League pennant and competed in the World Series – but, ultimately, they came up short. And as they blew a few close games and got shelled in another one en route to a 4-1 series defeat, it was hard to ignore a crucial problem with the Mets: their lousy defense.

Sure, not every opponent is the contact-hitting Kansas City Royals that seemed so uniquely designed to expose the Mets’ defensive shortcomings. And it’s true enough that, even for the Mets, the World Series was a statistical outlier. But it’s also true that the Mets are a below-average defensive team, and it’s now clear that their defensive weaknesses are capable of costing them in big moments. Mets GM Sandy Alderson has already noted the problem, and he’s mentioned to the press that the Mets will try to shore up their defense. How can they do it? Here are some ideas.

Let the Free Agents Walk

The Mets are losing a couple of key offensive threats to free agency this postseason. That’s okay, because those same guys are part of the problem on defense.

The best example is Daniel Murphy, who showed both sides of the coin this postseason. Murphy has long been a sub-par defender at second base. He’s also been a solid hitter for several seasons. In the 2015 postseason, Murphy became an extreme version of himself: he hit home runs in six straight games to help the Mets reach the World Series, and then he made several errors in that series to help make sure that the Mets lost it.

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is a decent but risky in the field. He’s very athletic, but he plays with a certain nonchalance that makes him gaffe-prone. He kicked the ball instead of catching it in the World Series – twice.

If the Mets let both players walk, they’ll have some offensive holes to fill – but they’ll also create a chance for themselves to improve on defense.

Go Get a Shortstop

It seems like the Mets always need a shortstop, and never get one. They were supposed to trade for one at the trade deadline, last offseason, and the offseason before that. It never happened. Instead, the Mets tended to make do with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores. They keep signing, promoting, or trading for outfielders to boost the offense instead.

This year, though, things might be different. Ruben Tejada’s upside is clearly limited, and during his cold streaks, he’s forced the Mets to play Flores. Flores is sub-par defender. Frankly, neither player is that great at either aspect of the game. If the Mets upgrade at shortstop, maybe they can improve both their offense and their defense.

Here’s another reason the Mets could target the shortstop position: their most open outfield spot is center field (assuming Yoenis Cespedes departs). With Curtis Granderson in right field and Michael Conforto in left, any new outfielder would displace CF Juan Lagares (Lagares had a mediocre season in 2015, but he was injured and projects to be better in 2016). Replacing Lagares and keeping Flores and/or Tejada at short is a net loss for the defense. Upgrading at short and keeping Lagares (in a platoon system, at the very least), on the other hand, is a defensive upgrade.

Give it Some Time

Mets fans may not want to hear this, but there’s still a chance that the Mets’ internal options may work at some positions. Outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo projects to be a solid defender, and even current shortstop Ruben Tejada can be solid in the field – he just needs to continue to develop hit hitting so that the Mets aren’t forced to bench him for some guy with hands of stone. Nerves seemed to victimize normally strong fielders like David Wright this past postseason. Now that he’s been to the World Series once, Wright may be less jittery if he goes back. Remember, the Mets were worse than usual on defense in the World Series. A few moves should be enough: trust in statistical regression.

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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